Exactly fifty years ago, I was in my second-year teaching and coaching at Vermont Academy. I was looking for graduate programs in history when an old family friend—Ted Schmitt—told me about a new U Mass master’s degree in sport administration. U Mass was just the second university to offer such a program. I had gone to a liberal arts college. I could hardly believe you could get credit, let alone a degree, in such a field. I signed up. My wife Donna and I moved to Amherst in June of 1972, assuming a one-year stay, and then who knows where. That plan dissolved when I started my coursework. There were no courses that considered the actual administration of sports. Instead, I took a marketing management course in the business school and a sport history course with Guy Lewis in what was then the Department of Men’s Physical Education, housed in the Curry Hicks Building (photo above).
Little did I know that the separate Departments of Men’s and Women’s PE were merging and dividing into new departments that included Sport Studies and Exercise Science. Those two departments led nationwide growth in their namesake fields. I had stumbled into a remarkable intellectual laboratory. Sport Studies had three faculty members who were at the forefront of new sub-disciplines: Guy Lewis in sport history and later sport management; John Loy in Sport Sociology, and Hal VanderZwaag in sport philosophy.
That fall, U Mass granted final approval for a new PhD program in Sport Studies. I was admitted and joined the first group, which included Bob Goodhue, Susan Birrell, Peter Donnelly, and Steve Mosher. We were lucky students. I had known many experts at Bowdoin College, but none in my mind surpassed the command of material that Guy Lewis and John Loy projected in their courses on the history and sociology of sport. We also enjoyed monthly seminars that attracted experts from North America and Europe. It was an intellectual alchemy that transformed play and games into real scholarship.
From 1972 on, my professional and academic interests have centered on sport history and sport management (the successor to sport administration). There are links below to some of my published work. In the descriptions I explain how they fit into the vision I learned from my adviser Guy Lewis.
U Mass has shifted from the broad vision of Sport Studies to a focus on Sport Management, where it is a world leader.
Anyone in a PhD program is wise to find a good dissertation topic as early as possible. In too many programs, however, the adviser dictates the topic, for good or bad reasons. My adviser, Guy Lewis, was the furthest thing from a dictator. He was there for me whenever I needed him. But I had to find my own topics and then consult him. Fine by me.
So, my dissertation grew out of my master’s thesis, which built on my undergraduate training and teaching of Latin and Classical Literature: how sports-like activities related to community-building in ancient times. Even before I defended the thesis, I knew the same question about community made sense for my birthplace, during the era of great upheaval between two major wars. That became my dissertation, and with revision, How Boston Played (1982). The book appeared among a small, early wave of “academic” monographs in sport history. It received positive reviews and was republished in 2003, with a new introduction.
Amazingly, it is still available on Amazon. Click Here
When I started to drill down on the history of high school sports, my archival research surprised me (as it often does) with abundant evidence of a story few had covered. In this case, that students first organized high school athletics on their own terms, in space neglected by teachers and administrators. Only later did adults hijack the teams—and the glory. Guy Lewis, Ron Smith, and other historians had described this for college athletics. But no one in the 1970s, to my knowledge, had excavated the high school terrain. For an excerpt, click below
It all started with a manuscript Bernie Mullin developed when he arrived at U Mass in 1977 with marching orders to create course content in the “sport administration” area that was neglected in the curriculum of my time there. With a DBA from Kansas, great energy, and a talent for blending theory with the practical world, Bernie steadily wrote 300+ pages for his new sport marketing class. And then it began circulating (with his blessing) to dozens of new programs in the field. Why would he give his genius away for free? Mostly because he wanted to help build the sub-discipline. But he also knew it was creating demand for the book to come.
How did I get involved? Simple. Guy Lewis. In 1978, Bernie and Guy hatched something called SMARTSS: Sport Management Arts and Sciences Symposium. They hoped to bring together people from academia and the sport industry to articulate questions that might drive an agenda of shared research. It was a dream worth pursuing. An approach that Tier I, land grant, universities would later call “engagement.” That is, encouraging faculty to conduct research that mattered to their public constituents.
I was working as an assistant commissioner with the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which at the time held one quarter of the NCAA membership. Bernie invited me to speak at the symposium in Amherst. We kept in touch through my time at the University of Washington and Robert Morris.
Then he called me in 1987. He was leaving U Mass to become VP for Marketing with the Pittsburgh Pirates—a team in dire need of serious, sophisticated marketing. He still looked to make a book out of his marketing manuscript. Would I sign on as a coauthor and help put more examples on the theoretical bones? I was all in. 1987-88 was an exciting time that included my Robert Morris students and I working with Bernie to develop, administer, process and evaluate perhaps the first machine readable fan survey ever employed in pro sports. We also lined up a book publisher: Rainer Martens and Human Kinetics.
But the manuscript lagged. I moved to UNH and Bernie had less and less time for writing. Rainer was patient, but we knew we needed another partner. I told Bernie I knew just the right free agent. Bill Sutton, a Robert Morris colleague from 1982-1986, who had moved on to Ohio State. Bill said yes and we were on our way. The first edition came out in 1993. We were blessed to have a publisher who believed in us and gave us great leeway. The 4th edition has been a #1 Bestseller on Amazon. Click here.
With the 5th edition, we turned the lead over to a younger group of scholars.
Each new edition included new theory and new examples, such as the “escalator” metaphor for understanding fan engagement with teams. We also emphasized case-study and research sidebars, from history, sociology, psychology, and beyond.
Sport Marketing has included many historical sidebars and examples.
They represent the authors commitment to a broad vision of Sport Studies
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